A Case Study in Occupant Evacuation Elevators by Jeff Maddox, PE

Jeff Maddox, P.E., with The Fire Consultants, has written a great article in the latest Fire Protection Engineering magazine, which is SFPE's flagship publication for fire protection engineering. The article is available online for SFPE members at this link. Look for the digital formats, and then go to the current issue which is Q4 2017. His article starts on p. 32. 

Jeff's work on the first Occupant Evacuation Elevators on the west coast for the 57-story, 805ft tall 181 Freemont project has opened the doors, so to speak, for use of elevators for egress in high-rise office and residential buildings. He will be presenting this work at the February 16, 2018 meeting in Walnut Creek, CA.

Congratulations, Jeff!



The D. Peter Lund Award given to Geza Szakats, P.E.

Congratulations to Geza Szakats, P.E., of Holmes Fire, the 2017 recipient of the SFPE D. Peter Lund Award!

About the award:

The Board of Directors established the D. Peter Lund Award in 1997 to recognize significant contributions to the advancement of the professional recognition of the fire protection engineer. This award is named in honor of D. Peter Lund, CAE, the first executive director of the Society.

When D. Peter Lund,CAE was named the first executive director of SFPE in 1971, the membership stood at 1,950, the annual budget was $55,000, and there were 21 chapters. Publications included the newsletter "The Bulletin", the quarterly "Fire Technology" (published by NFPA and sponsored by SFPE) and a "Yearbook." The annual meeting and technical sessions were incorporated into the NFPA Annual Meeting and organized by the local chapter. The staff numbered two - executive director and a secretary. Headquarters were at 60 Batterymarch St., Boston.

Over the next 25 years, Lund grew the Society creating "Technology Reports", the "Journal of Fire Protection Engineering", the "Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering", short courses, symposia, cosponsored events with NIST, ASTM, AICHE, API, NRC-Canada, NFSA, AFSA, and Engineering-News Record. Lund continued on to create an independent annual meeting for the Society, FPE-PE registration in the USA, the Foundation, the Corporate 100 program, and strategic plans. Under his leadership the Society doubled in membership and chapter growth. He was elected president of the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) for the 1989-90 term.

Lund earned a BA from Tufts University in 1959, an MBA from Northeastern University in 1970, and the CAE designation in 1972. Prior to SFPE, he was an officer in the United States Navy, serving as chief engineer on a destroyer escort and later commanding several reserve minesweepers. He also spent seven years with a trade association that represented the distributing gas utilities in New England.

Good Old Days-Good Old Boy Fire Protection

By James E. Art


The story you are about to read is true; the names have been omitted to protect the innocent, (and some people who should have known better!)

Also, the Statute of Limitations has probably expired.

My name is James Art. I’m a Fire Protection Engineer.

This takes place in the mid ‘70’s. (I’m not old - I’m experienced!)

I came from California to evaluate an old downtown high rise office building in a large city in a very large southern central border state. The building was unusual: Originally it was built as a three story building, with a tall “monumental” first floor, like a bank building. Then two more stories added, and later another five, making it a total of about 10 stories tall.

Just the facts, ma’am:

The owner was a large insurance company, which in those days meant huge amounts of paper files sideways on long open shelves, like some medical practices. I was concerned to see that the fire doors to the stairs had been blocked open, in this mostly unsprinklered building, to help the clerks carrying heavy loads of file folders.

The large basement was primarily a print shop and shipping operation, also full of paper plus machinery. This part of the building did have fire sprinklers. Inadvertently, I said: “The pipe is all half inch!” My guide, the Chief Engineer, said: “Well, all the sprinklers are half inch!” , which was true. Those sprinklers were nearly useless.

Then I noticed the concrete basement floor was raised in one area. It was up about 5 inches, in a rectangle about  eight foot by ten feet, and boxes of copy paper had been stacked on the raised section. I looked up and saw an amazing welded galvanized pipe fitting. Starting with a flanged 8 inch outlet, this assembly consisted of several elbows, and some piping, and went diagonally under some ducts, over and around, and finally back up to tie into another 8 inch flanged outlet. There were two parallel 8 inch screwed pipes that this connected together.

As I wondered what this was (I am an Engineer), suddenly it flashed: Missing Fire Pump.

Sure enough, the two pipes went all the way back to the fire “riser”, a horizontal pipe coming in thru the basement wall, and were tied in on either side of a check valve. The gages showed about 40 psi in the basement.

I asked Mr. Chief Engineer, and he said: “Yes, the old fire pump had been removed, as it needed maintenance.” He said all was been done under permit, and with written permission of the Fire Prevention Bureau (FPB). He’d be happy to show me the documentation. (They could have just abandoned and capped off the pipes, did not need to spend what was probably thousands of dollars to go around a check valve!)

In his office, filed properly, he had a letter asking the FPB for permission. They replied he needed to have an Engineer verify that there was at least 35 psi at the roof.

I assume this was for the standpipes, where today’s codes call for 100 psi, enough to account for loss in the hose, and still operate an adjustable fog nozzle. But in those days 65 psi was code, and 35 might’ve been enough for a straight stream.

Then he had a letter from a local Mechanical Engineer, saying there was 35 psi at the roof, and finally another letter from the FPB giving their permission to remove the fire pump.

I wondered how 35 psi was possible, given the height of the building, and the Chief Engineer offered to show me: There, on the roof, on an air conditioning unit, was an inch and a half gage showing about 35 psi! The fire standpipes would not have worked, even if several upper outlets in the stairwell were not found open, unless perhaps supplemented by the responding engine at an inlet.

I will not go into the sad stories of the fire alarms, and other fire features,

but there is a moral to this story:

In those days, very often the FPB was staffed with firefighters on temporary light duty, or sometimes officers passing through, on their way to promotion to a higher rank.

There is a lot to learn about the Building Codes, Fire Codes, alarms, sprinklers and standpipes. A wrong call can make a big difference in a fire, that doesn’t show up until then. And not all Good Old Boy Engineers actually know fire protection details. The FPB should understand what they are approving.

I strongly recommend FPB people be properly trained.

“Uniformed” should NOT mean Un-Informed.

Hopefully, today’s FPB personnel are more knowledgeable, better trained, and would not approve such a thing.

About theAuthor:

James E.Art is a Registered Fire Protection Engineer with over 25 years of experience. A graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology Fire Protection Engineering program, he does expert witness work; design review and inspection for cities, architects, engineers; code consulting; High Piled Storage Fire Code Reports; Alternate Means and Methods Requests; hydraulic calculations, and sprinkler design.You may contact him in California by telephone at (925)846-5060.